With digitalization in full swing, the days of control freaks and micromanaging executives are over. Trust and collaboration are the new currencies of the modern workplace. But managers often see this as a loss. They feel they have less influence and power. Yet the traditional strengths of managers are exactly what the digital transformation demands: recognizing opportunities, shaping change, evaluation, adaptation, and giving employees a vision of the future. What factors make managers successful in the midst of the digital transformation?
Business models are changing rapidly at the moment. Fail to keep pace, and you risk becoming a victim of disruption. That’s why every business needs to determine whether technical opportunities should be exploited or not. These include cloud services for accounting and knowledge management which can run on external servers as well as micro-services and API interfaces which connect data from a range of different applications, opening the door to new products. It sounds quite complicated, and it is. If you don’t understand digitalization, your company culture may need an overhaul.
Motivation instead of monitoring
Lots of people don’t understand what’s behind digitalization. That can lead to a fear of missing out as well as anxiety about losing face or failing. Frequently, middle management puts their heads in the sand. Instead of implementing the necessary changes, they become the leaders of the opposition and serve as examples to the rest of the staff, who will then also fight progress. It’s urgent for senior management to counteract this by taking the project of transforming the corporate culture head on.
Rigid, top-down structures were effective management tools during the era of the division of labor. But in an agile environment, digitalization should be seen as a process of mutual change. It’s all about leaving your comfort zone and becoming acquainted with the unknown. That requires open communication, a willingness to learn, and the knowledge that mistakes are simply part of the process. Mistakes should, in this new culture, be accepted as a part of everyday work. Some companies have gone so far as to reward occasional failures.
Consequently, management in today’s workplace means establishing a new culture to manage complexity and drive innovation. Here’s an example from a manufacturing industry. Automotive manufacturers are no longer simply about building vehicles with certain suppliers. Today, autonomous driving is the focus. Sensors, software, navigation systems, and connectivity with other vehicles and traffic systems all play a role. It’s no longer possible to meet objectives by developing according to plan. What’s needed are collaboration, networking, and ad hoc leadership. Every failure brings the company closer to its goals. Managers need to be able to coordinate work in a thoroughly connected environment.
Here’s another example of progressive management. The Burtzoorg nursing care service in the Netherlands focuses on support instead of control. Employees coordinate among themselves on a social intranet, ensuring the nursing staff are able to independently coordinate their routes and service plans in small teams. There is also an integrated collaboration tool that allows nurses to share their experiences with one another. This all allows the company to provide outstanding service in 30% less time and at a 40% lower cost than the competition. Managers have established autonomous teams and given them their trust. They provide guidance but also grant considerable freedom.
Removing old symbols
The new world of work requires new management styles that are not fashioned after top-down hierarchies. Openness, agility, learning, and change are what is needed in their place. In this type of atmosphere, the chairman of the board might spend a day doing the work of an intern at a startup. If you think that’s amusing, you haven’t understood what work will be like in the future. During the transformation, middle management should be given a protected space that fosters learning without fear of punishment for gaps in knowledge. A place where open, authentic communication is encouraged. New behavioral patterns will be established if decision-makers from all areas of the company are included. At the beginning, cultural changes should be introduced in small, easy-to-implement behaviors. The goal should be to anchor the new culture in all aspects of the company from onboarding and performance reviews to workplace design.
To sum up:
And by the way, collaboration in modern companies is promoted by good knowledge management. It helps different teams work together by enabling the knowledge transfer required for mutual support. Ask SABIO about our solution.